By Doug Porter
Cab drivers in San Diego who have stood up for reforming industry regulations have been unilaterally punished by company owners in recent days. Drivers are asking the city to lift a cap on the number of permits issued for taxis. The two sides are headed for an epic showdown before a City Council committee this week.
Cab company owners are desperately trying to preserve a lucrative franchise enabled by taxpayers. San Diego’s taxi drivers are ‘independent contractors’ who have virtually no control over the way they’re allowed to run their “business” of driving a cab. Mostly they eke out a living under terms set by a few anointed property owners (in this case the property is the license required to operate) who set terms and conditions.
One driver who dared to grant an interview with San Diego 6 News following a press conference hosted by City Councilwoman Marti Emerald and City attorney Jan Goldsmith was asked to “turn in his keys” (industry parlance for you’re fired).
Last Thursday driver Osman Osman was called by USA Cab company owner Tony Hueso (brother of State Senator Ben Hueso) who said, “Why are you asking for medallions?” Osman replied that he should ask the City, not him. Hueso demanded Osman turn in his key.
Earlier this month 40 drivers with Eritrean Cab approached management asking for a reduction in their lease rates ($465 a week, $550 a week if you work at the airport). They, too, were told to turn in their keys, even though no work stoppage was threatened. They simply asked.
Even though the cabbies were willing to continue working, the ‘permit holders’ insisted the lease drivers were no longer permitted to work and Yellow Cab dispatch blacklisted the drivers from leasing a permit from anyone else.
The taxi companies later backed down, fearing adverse publicity in the face of an upcoming City Council Public Safety Committee hearing to discussed changes in permit regulations scheduled for Thursday, September 18th.
Countless other drivers throughout the last 20 years under the taxi cartel have had their “keys taken away” for things as simple as asking for a receipt, objecting to old tires being put back on their cars to replace the new ones put on only while inspections were conducted and recently for trying to negotiate a lower lease and speaking out a press conference.
You could call it feudal servitude. Or you could call it an especially ugly preview of where we’re all headed if the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers get their way.
A study by San Diego State University and the Center on Policy Initiatives found 90% of taxi drivers lease their cabs from permit-holders, and have to work 70 hours a week to earn what a minimum wage worker makes in 40 hours.
While the owners interests are protected by the force of law, the drivers have no protections.
As organizer Sarah Saez explained a few weeks back at San Diego Free Press,
To get to this point United Taxi Workers of San Diego (UTWSD), has been leading the charge in consistently advocating for taxi reform since 2009. Founded by taxi drivers who went on strike fighting for economic justice, UTWSD leaders learned how to navigate the system by starting at the bottom level first.
After they tried negotiating directly with taxi permit holders and the Metropolitan Transit System staff and board with little to no success, they went to the City of San Diego who owns the permits for help. They also reached out to the public and the labor movement for support.
Their persistence is what has gotten them to the point of radically shifting the dynamics in the taxi industry that have worked to benefit only a minority of people while the 90% of taxi lease drivers who run the industry suffer under restrictive regulations and a lack of upward mobility.
The Council’s Public Safety hearing about lift the cap on permits is slated for Thursday at 1pm. City Hall 202 C Street 12th Floor. Driver Osman Osman will be there speaking up against owner Tony Hueso. He, after all, has nothing left to lose.
These drivers who dare to speak out are especially brave because if this policy goes through it likely won’t be implemented for a few months while MTS figures out how to administer the change.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who has been spearheading this effort, will not be there. She was recently been diagnosed with (and is being treated for) breast cancer. Emerald is expected to make a full recovery and plans to be present should the full City Council hear this matter. Councilwoman Myrtle Cole will taking her place as chair at the committee meeting. Other members of the Public Safety committee are Ed Harris and Mark Kersey.
More Convention Center Follies
The San Diego Convention Center Corporation–a non-profit agency created by the city–has begun sharing details of its taxpayer funded budget in response to inquiries from UT-SD Watchdog reporter Jeff McDonald and others. They’re kinda dribbling out…
From UT-San Diego:
Between a failed expansion-financing plan and tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance, the San Diego Convention Center may never draw more public interest in its business practices than it does today.
But the nonprofit arm of City Hall responsible for attracting conventions and tourists to San Diego no longer files a federal tax return available for public inspection.
Nor does the San Diego Convention Center Corp. publish a formalized budget that taxpayers — and even board members — can easily review to keep tabs on where the organization is spending its money.
“Why is this not disclosed somewhere?” asked attorney Cory Briggs, who last month successfully challenged the funding program for a long-planned expansion of the waterfront facility. “The public is the one footing the bill. The public is entitled to know.”
Here’s the reality, folks. This agency is a way for the city’s big hotel owners to tap into the public till. And they’d like to keep it that way.
If you have not yet read Linda Perine’s (Who Runs San Diego? Six False Premises for Convention Center Expansion) scathing expose of their doings, please do.
In a nutshell:
These are the same people who wanted the taxpayers of San Diego to take legal responsibility for a $575 million dollar bond offering (that was more likely going to end up being $680 million)
They promised to pay back those bonds with a tax that has now been declared illegal in return for $12.75 million a year in increased other tax revenues while the hotels pocketed $120 million annually in increased sales.
If the increased sales didn’t work out–and there is ample evidence that the convention market is glutted, including the fact that attendance at SDCC events has declined from 862,000 in 2009 to under 767,000 last year–the city’s general fund was on the hook.
I know the UT won’t get to the point of daring to question the very existence of the public/private (as in we pay and take the risks / they profit) tourism mechanisms that exist, but maybe somebody (like you!) should.
Another Day, Two More Insults for Women
In case you missed it yesterday, the National Football League is getting really, really, serious about women’s issues, including spousal abuse. How do we know this?
Because they’ve hired spokespersons with ladyparts, that’s how.
Lori Saldaña’s tweet sums it up very nicely:
— Lori Saldaña (@LoriSaldanaSD) September 16, 2014
Meanwhile on Capital Hill, Talking Points Memo reports on another successful effort by the GOP to not woo women voters:
As expected, Senate Republicans filibustered legislation on Monday aimed at helping women fight for equal pay in the workplace, a vote held by Democrats to attack the GOP ahead of the 2014 midterm elections.
The vote was 52 for, 40 against, falling short of the 60 needed to defeat a filibuster.
The legislation cleared an initial “cloture” motion on Wednesday to begin debate, which Republicans may have done to eat up Senate time that Democrats want to use for other election-year votes. The procedural vote on Monday blocks a final up-or-down vote on the bill, ensuring its failure.
The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who talk to coworkers about their salaries. It would also require more data collection of employee salaries from businesses.
Bike Haters Up in Arms
The haters are out in full force as a law mandating a safety buffer between bicyclists and passing vehicles goes into effect this week. California now joins 23 other states that require vehicles to stay three feet away from cyclists while passing.
Under the new law, vehicles must stay three feet away from cyclists when passing them on the street. Previously, the law said vehicles had to pass at a “safe distance.”
The goal is to make the roads safer for those who pedal in California, where more than 100 bicyclists are killed annually in collisions with motor vehicles, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Breaking the law carries a $35 fine. If a collision results from breaking the law and a bicyclist is injured, the motorist can be fined $220.
At UT San Diego, ‘Top Commenter’ Mark Niklas contributed to the “conversation” following a reader poll asking whether cyclists or drivers were the worst road hogs, saying (verbatim):
bicyclist are also known as brainless organ donors….
stay out cars ways
On This Day: 1810 – Mexicans began a revolt against Spanish rule. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest of Spanish descent, declared Mexico’s independence from Spain in the small town of Dolores. 1974 – President Ford announced a conditional amnesty program for draft-evaders and deserters during the Vietnam War. 2004- A player lockout by the National Hockey League began, leading to cancellation of what would have been the league’s 88th season. The lockout, over owner demands that salaries be capped, lasted 310 days
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